Nearly a year after first launching her eponymous brand, Alexa Chung has created her fourth collection – a romantic offering inspired by Virginia Woolf and the Bloomsbury Group.
It’s a much more feminine, mature offering than Chung’s previous design efforts, with ruffle collars, smock dresses and embroidery taking centre-stage. An ode to unsung heroes, writers, sculptors and artists, Virginia will appeal to anyone with an appreciation of the Bloomsbury Group and what they stood for – beauty, non-conformity and liberalism.
Here, Chung talks us through her latest collection and opens up about how running a fashion label has changed her personal approach to style. Naturally, it wouldn’t be a chat with Alexa without probing her on her fashion wisdom, so she also discusses why she dislikes trends and online shopping and reveals the five items every woman should have in her wardrobe.
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What was it about the Bloomsbury group that inspired this collection?
“Escapism and the idea of shared creative spaces and group fun that’s sheltering and nurturing. I loved Vanessa Bell’s art, but also was compelled by the love affairs that raged between members of the Bloomsbury Group and beyond. I think passion and appreciation and the idea of taking one’s time emanates from their creations. The luxury of time is something I don’t have so it is very appealing to me currently.”
Was there any particular member of the group whose style you particularly admire?
“It was actually Charleston House itself as opposed to the clothing of the time that was inspiring to me. The hand painted doors and woven textiles and powdery colour palettes. Femininity and nature were things I was focused on.”
How familiar are you with the literature and art of these authors and artists? Do you have any favourite books or artworks from this time?
“I remember being forced to read Virginia Woolf at school for which I am now grateful. I was familiar with Vanessa Bell but less so Duncan Grant.”
What makes this collection really stand out for you?
“It’s Britishness I think. Obviously Fantastic, our last collection, was celebrating 90s era Britpop but this harks back to something softer. I think it’s playful, but a bit more grown-up than our previous collections.”
Which is your favourite piece from the collection and how would you wear it?
“I actually love the white raincoat. I know it’s the most tomboyish of the items, but I think it would look perfect in spring with jeans and a lovely jumper.”
How has your style changed since launching your brand?
“It’s a bit like spending a day planning a dinner then not finding it as appetising as your guests might. When I spend an entire day looking at clothes the last thing I want to do is think about more clothes. Actually, that’s a lie – I will always feel compelled to take an interest in outfits, but I suppose I have less time now to play around in the morning. I have to be decisive about a look.”
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Has the way you look clothes changed since launching a fashion business?
“I probably have less time to think about my own personal wardrobe and definitely buy fewer clothes.”
Which items from your label have been most popular with shoppers?
“Weirdly, our tracksuits do very well which isn’t something I predicted we’d become known for, but they are very good.”
What new season trends are you interested in this season?
“I hate trends. Sorry. Trends happen when groups of people kick against what came before it and accidentally do so at the same time, so perhaps the next one will be cycling shorts and normal young person trainers or something. I have no idea, I just like to wear what I want.”
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What five pieces should every woman own in their wardrobe?
“I feel bad telling people they need anything. I know personally I can’t live without a good pair of jeans, a trench coat, weird shoes, a tiny handbag and my contact lenses which I will count here as something I wear.”
What’s your take on fast fashion and its future?
“I think people didn’t see it coming and then, when it did, we all indulged without thinking about the ramifications. Now fashion is developing a conscience and it does feel like a time when everyone in every industry is being analysed and rethought. It would be wonderful if a company could exist and thrive at a slower pace and it would of course be beneficial to the planet and humanity if all clothes were made, produced and consumed in considerate ways that were sustainable.”
Do you prefer to shop online or in stores?
“Personally, I prefer shopping in store because I like to be able to feel a product and decide whether it’s worth an investment in person. When I shop online I put things in a basket and then don’t check out. Gah…”